The Washington Post

Florida’s chads or chad, hanging either way

(Alan Diaz/Associated Press)

Loop Fan David Hart of Miami wrote to correct. “I hope that I am not terribly anal to tell you that the plural of chad is chad. CHAD stands for ‘card hole accumulated debris’.”

If that’s correct, would that make it one of those words, like RBI, where, when you talk about Nats rookie phenom Bryce Harper, you have to say: “Harper has 49 Ars- Be- I?” (But then people may think you’re pretending to be a pirate.)

However, as Washington Post editor par excellence Bill Walsh notes:

“If it’s two RBI, then it’s two POW, right?” (Walsh has written three books on English usage, including “Lapsing Into a Comma” and one out next year tentatively titled “Yes, I Could Care Less.”

And, as it turns out, the origin of “chad” is unknown. Wikipedia says that the notion it is an acronym for “card hole accumulated debris” is “clearly intended as a joke.”

Dictionary searches were inconclusive. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary posits that a chad is “small pieces of paper” thus plural.

But The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary and Random House Webster’s Unabridged say the term is singular, with Webster’s defining it as “a small paper disk or square formed when a hole is punched in a punch card or paper tape.”

Let the chads hang where they may.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.


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